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US and Canadian warships sail through the Taiwan Strait after Biden vowed to defend the island

A US Navy ship, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins, conducted a “routine transit of the Taiwan Strait” on Tuesday, US Navy spokesman said. UU., Lieutenant Mark Langford, in a statement.

The US ship made the transit “in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver,” Langford said.

The two ships “transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of ​​any coastal state,” Lt. Langford said. The transit “demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Lt. Langford added.

Since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August, the US has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese military ships and submarines in Taiwan, a US defense official told CNN.

Although the US has called the transit “routine,” it comes after Biden added fuel to tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan, telling CBS’s “60 Minutes” that would use US troops to defend the island if China tried to invade it.

The strait is a 180-kilometre (110-mile) stretch of water that separates the autonomous democratic island of Taiwan from mainland China.

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, an island of 23 million people, even though China’s ruling Communist Party has never controlled it. Beijing also claims sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters of the Taiwan Strait under Chinese law and its interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The US Navy, however, says most of the strait is in international waters, citing a UNCLOS definition of territorial waters that extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 kilometers) from the coast of a country. The United States regularly sends its warships through the strait, making dozens of such transits in recent years.

In the CBS interview, Biden was asked if “American forces, American men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”

“Yes,” replied the president of the United States.

The comments reiterate a pledge to defend Taiwan that Biden previously made, though on Sunday he specified that “American men and women” would be involved in the effort.

Canadian Defense Ministry Head of Media Relations Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed that Canada participated in the transit on Tuesday.

“After port visits to Jakarta, Indonesia, and Manila, Philippines, HMCS Vancouver sailed through the Taiwan Strait in conjunction with USS Higgins, as this was the most direct shipping route. This sailing was conducted in full compliance with international law, including high seas navigation rights as outlined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Le Bouthillier told CNN.

Chinese planes and ships were present at “several portions” of the US and Canadian ship transit, the US military confirmed, but “all interactions with foreign military forces during the transit were consistent with international standards and practices and did not affect the operation”. Langford said.

Beijing was quick to condemn Biden’s weekend comments, reiterating its warning that China reserves the “option to take all necessary steps” to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“The US comments seriously violate the one-China principle and the provisions of the three US-China joint communiqués. It is also a serious violation of the important commitment made by the US side not to support independent of Taiwan,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. spokesman Mao Ning said at a briefing on Monday.

“It sent a gravely wrong signal to the Taiwan independence separatist forces. China expresses its strong discontent and firm opposition and has made serious representations on the US side,” Mao added.

US and Canadian warships last passed through the strait at the same time 11 months ago, when the destroyer USS Dewey and the frigate HMCS Winnipeg made the trip.

After that transit, Colonel-in-Chief Shi Yi, spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, said in a written statement that “the US across the Taiwan Strait.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and has refused to rule out the use of force. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei are at their highest point in decades, with the Chinese military holding major military exercises near the island.

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